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4K UHD Review: Blue Underground’s The Final Countdown (Limited Edition)

The Final Countdown

Top Gun meets Twilight Zone equals The Final Countdown. Not the song but the Sci-Fi Military Actioner that makes its way to 4K UHD Disc armed with a gorgeous transfer thanks to Blue Underground.  

The Film

There is a Twilight Zone episode called The Odyssey of Flight 33 that takes this commercial airline through a strange circle of clouds and into the past.  The crew and passengers watch from high above as the landscape changes as they go back farther and farther in time.  One is reminded of this episode of the classic series when watching The Final Countdown and wonders if the makers were “inspired” by that brilliant piece of time-traveling storytelling.  

The USS Nimitz is on a routine exercise mission taking on a civilian operator Lasky (Martin Sheen) when the aircraft carrier goes through some sort of time temporal cloud to end up just outside of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Captain Yelland (Kirk Douglas) is intent on helping the Americans stopping the invading Japanese forces as they may not find a way home.  As Lasky and Yelland debate what could or should happen Commander Owens (James Farentino) finds himself embroiled with a should-be-dead Senator (Charles Durning) and his assistant (Katharine Ross).  Japanese Zero Fighters versus F-14 Tomcats, Japanese Fighter Pilots with machine guns, and more… 

The Final Countdown finds its biggest alley in its clever script by David Ambrose, Gerry Davis, Thomas Hunter, and Peter Powell.  Creating an exciting action sci-fi time-traveling epic isn’t easy. To further compound issues trying and succeeding in getting the full support of the Navy is a minor miracle. The pro-military proforma of the piece isn’t as blatant as one would think thankfully.  Adding to the style of the piece is clear level head directing from Don Taylor.  

Taylor finds the strength in his all-star cast.  Douglas and Sheen being the heavy hitters here of the ensemble do exactly what you want them to do.  Smart star performances.  It’s the adroit casting of Durning, Ross, Farentino, and Ron O’Neal that ups the ante.  There’s a delight for fans of 70s Exploitation cinema seeing Ron “Super Fly” O’Neal take on an authoritative figure such as the second in command of an Aircraft Carrier as he does here.  O’Neal is great playing most of his scenes with Douglas and Sheen bringing a no-shit attitude you’d expect from an XO.  

The action is the standout here with the production getting the full cooperation of the Navy the film’s scenes of combat and of the Nimitz itself are jaw-dropping.  There is an ariel battle between Japanese Zeroes and F-14s that must be seen to be believed.  Apart from a few smartly inserted model shots, the footage is real for reel.  The physicality is impressive beyond compare and honestly beats Top Gun for cohesive action footage.  

The Final Countdown sides on truly good sci-fi action thrillers of the early 1980s.  

The Transfer

Blue Underground continues their amazing streak of beautiful 4K UHD presentations.  The Dolby Vision encoded disc, like with Daughters of Darkness, is reference quality in every way.  The picture beautifully represents the qualities of a 35mm print.  The way it looks, the sharpness, the grain structure, the depth of field with anamorphic lenses, all mimic those aspects the way that the projection of 35mm film has without the defects like scratches, projector lamp issues, skipped frames.  Many will expect the sort of 4K experience they get with Videogames.  They’re missing the point.  Blue Underground understands how to approach a 4K UHD experience better than anyone. They understand that this is the close representation we get to a theatrical experience and those artifacts that make a 35mm print such a wonderful thing should not be just scrubbed out via DNR or other processes.  The Final Countdown’s presentation is the best presentation that one could wish for with advances in technologies without suffering the consequences of advances in technology.  

The Audio 

It should be noted that the Dolby Atmos soundtrack is highly aggressive and LOUD.  None of that lower “optimized for home viewing” b.s.  This track is active and aggressive in all the best ways.  It’s a perfect complement to the perfection that is the Picture quality of the film.  That is to say that this is a reference-quality mix.  

The Extras

They include the following;

  • Audio Commentary with Director of Photography Victor J. Kemper
  • Lloyd Kaufman Goes Hollywood
  • Starring The Jolly Rogers
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • TV Spots
  • Poster & Still Galleries
  • THE FINAL COUNTDOWN Original Motion Picture Soundtrack CD by John Scott

The archival commentary by Victor J Kemper is a solid track.  Hosted by David Greggory from Blue Underground, the director of photography starts off by discussing the opening moments of the F-14 launching and the catching of the afterburn exhaust.  Details include working with Martin Sheen (including a film that Kemper didn’t remember working with him on), the technical details of shooting the air shots and who actually shot them, the scheduling and requirements that came along with shoot with the Navy, strict adherence of scheduling on the ship by the Commander of the Ship, working with Kirk Douglas, accidents and possible causalities on board the carrier, the SFX work on the “time tunnel” and the lack of budget that caused issues, an interesting tidbit about that SFX work and who directed it, the lack of time to prep for shooting because of the issues of being confined to quarters when they first started, the quarters they stayed in and the specific conditions, his experience with the nuclear reactor and how water is recycled as he found out during his time on the carrier, the shooting difficulties with the Gatsby (which is the ship Durning and Ross are on during their plot), the production schedule and shooting in Virginia and Florida in place of Hawaii (with exception of inserts), having to pay for their own food (a little known fact that Officers on the ship must pay for the food) on the carrier, how that turned into a small competition between various mess hall chefs, the filming of the mid-air refueling, a fascinating story about Kemper’s brother-in-law who was a fighter pilot in Vietnam, the Japanese Zeros that weren’t Japanese Zeros, the difficulty of lighting and matching the lighting on the carrier, the lack of being involved with preproduction and script readings to get a feel for the tone which wasn’t done here, how he replaced the original cinematographer right before production, his work previous as an electrical engineer and how this experience fascinated him from a technical perspective, about operating the camera personally and the crew around cinematographers, getting started with John Cassavetes, how things worked in Kemper’s era, some technical changes that have occurred since he started, an interesting solution for the flicker on TV and monitors before correcting aperture speeds automatically became a standard feature, how they were able to get the camera angles and shots of the jets in the film, and much more.  Kemper gives both a technical and creative commentary with Greggory prompting the conversation to areas of interest.  

Lloyd Kaufman Goes Hollywood (14:04) – is an archival interview with Associate Producer Lloyd Kaufman.  Kaufman the mad genius of Troma discusses how he would take on jobs as a Unit Production Manager and Associate Producer on The Final Count Down. Details include how he Peter Douglas came to him to create a budget, meeting Kirk Douglas, meeting director Don Taylor for the first time and his thoughts on the director, his work with the Douglas’s getting the Navy buy in, the filming on the Nimitz, how he had to learn the in’s and outs of the air craft carrier, the gift given to him by the Jolly Roger squadron, Kaufman’s no love for Don Taylor and his crew, a funny story about Kirk Douglas, Kaufman’s cameo, and more.  Kaufman honestly recounts some of the crap that does on a production and how that informed him to stay independent.  

Starring The Jolly Rogers (31:18) – is archival interviews with The Jolly Rogers F-14 Fighter Squadron.  The various members of the Jolly Roger squadron that filmed The Final Countdown.  Rather than discussing the shooting, the squad discusses the various technical aspects of flying, taking off from a carrier, and landing on a carrier.  Other details how they got onto the production, how much control they had over the script and shooting, the production from their perspective, and much more.  It’s a very interesting interview for a different behind-the-scenes crew member. 

Theatrical Trailers – included are the Teaser (1:50), Trailer 1 (2:49), and Trailer 2 (3:13) 

TV Spots – 3 TV Spots running 0:30 each. 

Poster & Still Galleries 

Posters (15:00) – the posters gallery allows you to either run automatically or navigate through using chapter stops on all 30 various posters.

Advertising Materials (5:00) – Advertising gallery allows you to either run automatically or navigate through using chapter stops on all 10 different Ads for the film from various newspapers and magazines.

Japanese Souvenir Program (15:30) – Japanese Souvenir Program gallery allows you to either run automatically or navigate through using chapter stops on the reproduction of this interesting program that includes some great mockup blueprints and much more. 

Lobby Cards (30:01) – Lobby Card gallery allows you to either run automatically or navigate through using chapter stops on all 60 various color and black and white lobby cars.

Stills (7:30) – Stills gallery allows you to either run automatically or navigate through using chapter stops on all 15 various color and black and white production stills.

Behind-The-Scenes (39:02) – Behind-the-scenes gallery allows you to either run automatically or navigate through using chapter stops on all 78 various stills.

Video (20:01) – Video gallery allows you to either run automatically or navigate through using chapter stops on all 340 various video format covers from around the world.

Miscellaneous (10:00) – Miscellaneous gallery allows you to either run automatically or navigate through using chapter stops on all 20 various images like the tie-in novelization, 8mm reel, Album covers and model kits!

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN Original Motion Picture Soundtrack CD by John Scott (53:26) – Blue Underground like most of their Limited-Edition sets has included the rousing score by John Scott.  The score created in conjunction with Screen Archives is the full score and fully remastered.  Track listings: 

  1. The Final Countdown – Main Titles
  2. Mr. Tideman
  3. The USS Nimitz on Route
  4. The Approaching Storm 
  5. Pursued by The Storm
  6. Into the Time Warp
  7. Rig the Barricades
  8. Last Known Position
  9. An Hour Ago
  10. December 7, 1941
  11. The Japanese Navy
  12. Shake Up The Zeros
  13. Splash Two
  14. Laurel and Owen
  15. Climb Mount Nitaka
  16. On The Beach
  17. General Quarters
  18. Operation Peral Harbor
  19. The Storm Reappears
  20. Back Through The Time Warp
  21. The Planes Return 
  22. The Admirals Arrive
  23. Mrs. and Mrs. Tideman

The Final Thought 

The Final Countdown’s visual and audio presentations are some of the best currently in the UHD market.  Blue Underground continues to show why they’re doing some of the best work in the new format.  Highest Possible Recommendations. 

Blue Underground’s 4K UHD Set for The Final Countdown is out May 25th

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